The Old Cat With The Hats

April 7, 2012

Some characters I’ve met were such random intersections and the details so hazy that I sometimes must remind myself that, yeah, that really happened.

Once, while living in London, I went to check out an apartment, meeting some older fellow at his studio. He was a hat maker which explained all of the hats as we threaded to the back of the workspace and up some stairs.

It was barely affordable, provided the food budget was kept to five pounds a day, and, as I recall, the flat was close to the heart of the city.

The possible future landlord unlocked the door and revealed a home fit for a hobbit. The ceiling was no more than six inches above the top of my head. The walls immediately began to close in on me.

Days later I picked up a copy of The Evening Standard and was leafing through it at the place into which I had moved.

And there was the a photograph of that one-time possible future landlord, hobnobbing with Prince Charles at some function.

Apparently I had nearly rented a place from one of the UK’s most-reknowned haberdashers, one who had long crafted headpieces for – among other celebrities – the royal family.

I can’t recall this hat maker’s name – and couldn’t sleuth it out on the internet – and only remember the most sketchy memories of him. Mostly I have a fuzzy picture of a bunch of hats and some charming, dapper, old fellow with an impish vibe and a twinkle in his eye.

At least I think it all happened.

Here are four songs by Men Without Hats…

Men Without Hats – The Safety Dance
from Rhythm Of Youth (1983)

I was intimately familiar with Men Without Hats well beyond The Safety Dance thanks to my buddy Streuss who kept a cassette in his car with Rhythm Of Youth on one side and Iron Maiden’s The Number Of The Beast on the other side.

As for The Safety Dance, the elastic song could have only existed in the early ’80s and its goofy charm combined with the greatest video featuring a dwarf dancing around a maypole made the song a sensation that autumn.

(it was also educational for those who might have struggled to spell “safety”)

Men Without Hats – I Like
from Rhythm Of Youth (1983)

The first song on side two of Rhythm Of Youth, I Like was the track that broke Paloma and won her over to the hatless, Canadian wonders. Try listening to this one and not having it lodge in your brain.

I’m not completely certain what the hell they’re going on about in this song – some kind of middle finger to shallow people – but it’s fun to sing along to lines like “I. Like. When they talk real loud, try to tell you what they know.”

Men Without Hats – I Got The Message
from Rhythm Of Youth (1983)

Remember years ago when those Pokémon cartoons caused seizures in a large number of the viewers in Japan? Had I Got The Message been a hit, I’d imagine it would have provoked a similar problem.

Men Without Hats – Pop Goes The World
from Pop Goes The World (1987)

Like most of the known world, I lost track of Men Without Hats after their initial fifteen minutes were up. Streuss, who had introduced us to the band, soon replaced that cassette with ones by Talking Heads, Devo, and The Cure

But then, they returned several years later with Pop Goes The World. Streuss and I were in college and I think he was in a Byrds phase (it involved a girl).

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God Bless Men Without Hats

March 5, 2009

The legendary band Men Without Hats was long a joke to Paloma. She’d shake her head recalling her younger brother’s fondness for The Safety Dance when they were kids.

Things changed when I bought a copy of The Rhythm Of Youth on LP last summer. She claims to have never heard the album, but she quickly warmed to the madcap musical antics.

I’d never owned the album, but I was quite familiar with it. In high school, my friend Chris had a cassette with Men Without Hats on one side and Iron Maiden’s The Number Of The Beast on the other.

Amazingly, he’s quite successful and well-adjusted.

But twenty-five years ago, thanks to winter nights when a half dozen of us would be piled into Chris’ Volvo (actually, his dad’s car), I was well acquainted with the elastic melodies of Men Without Hats.

Like a lot of the ‘80s, their songs were like musical cartoons.

Why they had no hats – had they been stolen? Lost? – I have no idea. Maybe it was some religious thing. It does seem like a lot of religions are preoccupied with headware.

And there does seem to be a lot of focus among the pious on what foods may be eaten.

It’s as though most of the people of the world have chosen to believe in a deity who they choose to present as a disgruntled foodie or a fervent fashionista.

And suddenly the music of Men Without Hats isn’t quite so non-sensical.

Men Without Hats – I Like
The first song on side two of Rhythm Of Youth, I Like was the track that broke Paloma. Try listening to this one and not having it lodge in your brain.

I’m not completely certain what the hell they’re going on about in this song – some kind of middle finger to shallow people – but it’s fun to sing along to lines like “I. Like. When they talk real loud, try to tell you what they know.”

Men Without Hats – Things In My Life
“Things like polyester pants and shoes don’t make it easy to remember.”

You know, I’m bumfoozled by a chunk of Bob Dylan’s lyrics and Men Without Hats often leave me similarly confused.

Of course, other than that, the two acts aren’t very much alike.

Things In My Life is, surprisingly, kind of pretty, though.

Men Without Hats- I Got The Message
Remember years ago when those Pokémon cartoons caused seizures in a large number of the viewers in Japan? Had I Got The Message been a hit, I’d imagine it would have provoked a similar problem.

Men Without Hats – Pop Goes The World
Like most of the known world, I lost track of Men Without Hats after their initial fifteen minutes were up. Chris soon replaced that cassette with ones by Talking Heads, Devo, and The Cure

But then, they returned several years later with Pop Goes The World. Chris and I were in college and I think he was in a Byrds phase (it involved a girl).